Lightning strike injures 4 at Grand Canyon; lightning storm precautions

This April 17, 2012, National Park Service photo shows lightning striking Mather Point in Grand Canyon National Park. Summer storms in the southwest are often accompanied by potentially deadly lightning. Visitors walking and hiking in the park are reminded that if they can hear thunder, they should consider ending outdoor activities. If the sound of thunder follows a lightning flash within 30 seconds, seek shelter inside a building or vehicle. If this is not possible, move well away from high points such as ridges and the edge of the canyon. Do not seek shelter beneath tall trees. Lightning strikes within Grand Canyon National Park an average of 26,073 times per year, according to the NPS. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, April 17, 2012 | NPS Photo by Michael Quinn, courtesy of NPS, St. George News

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – On July 15, a lightning strike near Mather Point at Grand Canyon National Park injured a group of visitors standing by the canyon rim.

Following the strike, which occurred at approximately 1 p.m., four people were transported to the South Rim medical clinic for evaluation. According to the Park’s statement on the incident, their injuries were not life-threatening, but the situation could have easily been tragic.

Summer storms throughout the southwestern United States are frequently accompanied by dangerous lightning. Serious injuries and fatalities can occur during these storms if people do not take precautions.

Grand Canyon National Park and NOAA offer the following tips on lightning safety:

  • The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a building or vehicle with the windows closed.
  • No place outside is safe during a thunderstorm.
  • If you are caught outside without safe shelter, immediately move away from water such as lakes and ponds and elevated areas such as hills and mountain ridges. Look for dry, low ground.
  • Do not use trees or cliffs for shelter.
  • Do not lie on the ground; crouch on the balls of your feet with your heels touching and your hands over your ears.
  • Stay away from man-made objects that conduct electricity, like metal fences, power poles and windmills.
  • Check your local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities.
  • During outdoor activities, be aware of the nearest safe structure or vehicle and how long it may take to reach it in the event of a thunderstorm.
  • Listen for thunder, watch for lightning and observe the direction and speed of storm movement
  • Do not use the surrounding sky to judge whether conditions are safe; lighting can strike even when blue sky is visible among storm clouds.
  • If you hear thunder, the storm is close enough for lightning to strike you. Lightning can travel as far as 10 miles away from the originating storm cloud, and many bolts split and simultaneously strike points up to five miles apart.
  • If you hear thunder followed by a lightning flash within 30 seconds or less, immediately seek shelter inside a building or vehicle.
  • Remember your pets. Bring them inside the house during thunderstorms.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, balconies and metal railings.
  • Do not use any devices (including computers, landline phones and appliances) that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Do not use the shower, bath, sink or any type of plumbing.
  • Stay away from concrete floors and walls.
  • Stay in shelter at least 30 minutes after you last hear thunder.

Thunderstorms are a beautiful and exciting display of nature’s power, but also a deadly force that can kill in the blink of an eye. Lightning travels at 90,000 miles per hour and burns at 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, three times hotter than the surface of the sun. Across the U.S. each year lightning strikes approximately 25 million times, killing nearly 100 people and injuring hundreds more.

But a large majority of these tragedies can be avoided with precaution and good judgment. Safety is essential. Remember:

If you see it, flee it. If you hear it, clear it.


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